Saturday, March 7, 2020

Expecting rain by midweek

It had been an enchanted final week of February; Mardi Gras, and the following Saturday Leap Year Day. I had a good time writing and reading and listening to music. Now, while I wait in line for my ration of toilet paper I have these comments: 

“…art is not frivolous, an indulgence or luxury, an embellishment of what is most central: it is the most vital and direct form of impact on and through the body, the generation of vibratory waves, rhythms, that traverse the body and make of the body a link with forces it cannot otherwise perceive and act upon. This explains art's cultural or human universality and ubiquity: it is culture's most direct mode of enhancement or intensification of bodies, culture's mode for the elaboration of sensations, and thus culture's most intense debt to the chaotic forces it characterizes as nature. While there is no universal art, no art form, no music or painting, that appeals everywhere in the same way, it is also true that there is no culture without its own arts, without its own forms of bodily enhancement and intensification.”  (from Chaos, Territory, Art by Elizabeth Grosz.)

Recent reading:

Transit, by Anna Seghers.  People trying to get the hell out of France in the 1930’s, ahead of the German occupation, hindered by bureaucracy and logistics. A sad and frightening story about the dehumanizing outcomes for refugees; Kafkaesque, Orwellian, with parallels to today but very much its own tale of the banality of horror. And the timeless struggle of being a refugee. The writing at times is surrealistic, at times gothic, always attention grabbing.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter. Three short novels. Some thematic similarities to Transit, especially the sense of being out of step with the norm, and the concomitant feelings of fear, frustration and helplessness. A fictional account of “The chaotic indeterminacy of the real” is a description from Elizabeth Grosz (above). Terrific writing. Thanks to Susan Harlan Slater for going to Bard Street Books and buying this copy for me.

And I came across the poet, Dorothy Chan

Because of the buzz about the current movie, “The Call of the Wild,” I decided to first read the book by Jack London before I went to the theater. It’s a classic most American students encounter during their school years. Somehow I missed it. Reading it now at my advanced age I do not understand it's honored place on the bookshelf. I found it to be well-written but ridiculous--a dog thinking just like a human--and I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie has the cartoon animals talking. I'll pass. No wonder the line for toilet paper is lengthening.

One of these days real soon I’ll stop quoting Robert Louis Stevenson, but until then, here’s something to combat political correctness and snowflake syndrome: “A human truth, which is always very much a lie, hides as much of life as it displays. It is men who hold another truth, or, as it seems to us, perhaps, a dangerous lie, who can extend our restricted field of knowledge, and rouse our drowsy consciences.”

And classical music I’ve particularly enjoyed recently: Insomnia by Esa-Pekka Salonen; Concerto for Bandoneon by Astor Piazzolla, and Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part. Composers from Finland, Argentina, and Estonia.

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